Armidale Masonic Lodge resident Joane Emblen reflects on her life ahead of the NSW Seniors Festival

REFLECTION: Masonic Lodge resident Joane Emblen tells some of the stories of her life, born in 1937 she's now 81.
REFLECTION: Masonic Lodge resident Joane Emblen tells some of the stories of her life, born in 1937 she's now 81.

COMPLETE darkness.

A hundred quiet bodies sit facing forward in anticipation, the excitement is palpable.

“One, two, three, four o’clock rock,” the lights flash on, the crowd cheers, all smiling at the screen.

“Five, six, seven,” it was 1955 and Joane Emblen had snuck out of work, the Coffee Lounge at King’s Cross to head to the Capitol Theatre.

“Because you did earn your money in those days,” she said.

Glenn Ford’s film Blackboard Jungle was at the pictures, and in those days Mrs Emblen liked to take herself.

Even though she was a catch.

Born in Bathurst in 1937, Mrs Emblen met her husband walking to the town pool when she was just 15.

“You went through two parks to get there and he sidled up to me, popped me on the back of his motorcycle and took me to get a milkshake,” she said.

“I did pretty much anything I liked but I never did anything I shouldn’t.

“I had a crush on him but I had other boyfriends too – I had a mile of boyfriends.”

When she moved to Sydney she worked with manually operated telephones in Martin Place.

She remembers one night when an attractive young man took her home, and “bugalugs” – her husband to be, waited at the end of the street until she went home safe.

“He couldn’t do much about it,” she said.

They were officially together when Mrs Emblen bought a two piece swimsuit, quite racy at the time.

“In those days it was all one piece,” she said.

“I showed him my two piece and he said – “You’re not wearing that to the Dubbo Baths are you?”

“He said, “My girl won’t be going in that.” So I was his girl.”

REFLECTION: Masonic Lodge resident Joane Emblen bought all of her rings herself, wearing her own on her wedding finger. Photo: Madeline Link.

REFLECTION: Masonic Lodge resident Joane Emblen bought all of her rings herself, wearing her own on her wedding finger. Photo: Madeline Link.

Married at the St Brigid’s Catholic Church in Dubbo, Mrs Emblen flew to Sydney to buy her dress.

She still remembers it.

Satin and lace, with a hoop petticoat and nipped waist – the neckline made with guipure lace and tied at the back with a satin bow.

But, it wasn’t smooth sailing from there, Mrs Emblen and her husband moved to Eumungerie to look after her father’s petrol business.

“I got very sick,” Mrs Emblen said.

“I was pregnant with my second child when I got sick, I had a nervous breakdown.

“They sent me off to Orange to a hospital, they didn’t send me to the nuthouse.”

In those days electroconvulsive therapy, shock therapy, was considered one of the least harmful treatment options for depressed pregnant women.

“I remember it quite well,” Mrs Emblen said.

“They wouldn’t want to do it anymore, they just put the clamps on you – put you out of it, but I woke up in the middle of it, it was like a whistling going into your brain.

“It’s a wonder I’ve got any brains left, my problem was a chemical imbalance of the brain when I was born.”

Once she’d recovered she lived in a caravan for six months in Wellington with her two small children.

“God must have been looking after me because I never had any trouble with the kids being near the river,” she said.

“I fell in love with somebody else but that didn’t come to anything, I met him at the cafe and he was the bosses son.

“I never had an affair with him though, never ever.

“I’m boring you, need I say more? There’s so much more.”

This story Shock therapy and a night shared with strangers at the Capitol Theatre first appeared on The Armidale Express.

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